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E-Reading

Below are links to recent articles in newspapers and magazines on the future of reading in an e-reader and laptop universe.

Here is Kevin Kelly writing in Smithsonian Magazine on “Reading in a Whole New Way.” The subtitle asks how “the act of reading” will change as people “move from print to pixie.” One observation he makes: `

“But it is not book reading. Or newspaper reading. It is screen reading. Screens are always on, and, unlike with books we never stop staring at them. This new platform is very visual, and it is gradually merging words with moving images: words zip around, they float over images, serving as footnotes or annotations, linking to other words or images. You might think of this new medium as books we watch, or tele­vision we read. Screens are also intensely data-driven. Pixels encourage numeracy and produce rivers of numbers flowing into databases. Visualizing data is a new art, and reading charts a new literacy. Screen culture demands fluency in all kinds of symbols, not just letters.”

And here is a story in the Los Angeles Times on how “Electronic Reading Devices Are Transforming the Concept of a Book.” According to reporters Alex Beam and David Sarno:

“As electronic reading devices evolve and proliferate, books are increasingly able to talk to readers, quiz them on their grasp of the material, play videos to illustrate a point or connect them with a community of fellow readers. The same technology allows readers to reach out to authors, provide instant reaction and even become creative collaborators, influencing plot developments and the writer’s use of dramatic devices.”

And here is a story in Science Daily, an important one in the research base just beginning to accumulate on the impact of screens in the home. The headline is “Children with Home Computers Likely to Have Lower Test Scores, Study Finds.” Researchers at Duke University examined home computer access and use in North Carolina and found that efforts to widen Internet access among the population “would actually widen the achievement gap in math and reading scores. Students in grades five through eight, particularly those from disadvantaged families, tend to post lower scores once these technologies arrive in their home.”

Finally, here’s a direct op-ed in the Taipei Times by Dan Bloom entitled “The Pros and Cons of Reading on Screens.” He summarizes some important research on precisely the difference between screen and print reading:

“The process of reading on a screen involves so much physical manipulation of the computer that it interferes with our ability to focus on and appreciate what we are reading;

“Online text moves up and down the screen and lacks a physical dimension, robbing us of a sense of completeness;

“The visual happenings on a computer screen and our physical interaction with the device and its setup can be distracting.

“All of these things tax human cognition and concentration in a way that a book, newspaper or magazine does not.”

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